VITA, the Video Interview Tool for Admissions, is Announced by AAMC

Virtual Medical School Interview

On June 25 2020, the AAMC announced VITA or Video Interview Tool for Admissions. It’s an initiative by the AAMC to help medical schools during the COVID-19 pandemic assess applicants without the need for traditional in-person interviews; essentially, it’s a one-way virtual interview!

The AAMC developed and will administer this one-time, one-way video (recorded) interview designed to help medical schools assess applicants’ pre-professional competencies important for success in medical school.

How exactly the text will be utilized by medical schools is still up for debate. With the addition of the VITA, as well as the SJT (situational judgment test) and the CASPer exam, there are now multiple “pre-interview” tests that a pre-med may have to take. While the SJT is only being piloted to two schools, the VITA test will be used by many medical schools for the 2020-2021 application cycle.

What are the VITA Exam Specifics

There are many specifics of the exam that are covered on the AAMC website, but a few highlights include that you must be selected by at least one medical school to complete the AAMC VITA interview. Schools will notify the AAMC that you have been selected to complete the AAMC VITA interview, which will initiate the process. You only have to take the AAMC VITA test once and it will be available for all schools to review.

The AAMC VITA interview will be done on the HireVue platform, which is an online interview platform that typically is used by recruiters for job interviews. The AAMC has adapted the format to reflect a one-way medical school interview. You will not need to schedule a specific date for this portion of your medical school interview, which will really allow travel to become a non-concern for students. It’s not clear yet whether medical schools will still require an in-person interview in addition to the VITA interview.

How Will the Exam Be Scored?

Medical schools will likely score this interview similar to how they score other interviews. While AAMC will not grade it, each medical school will evaluate your responses using its own school-specific process. There is no guarantee that a medical school that selects you to interview will view or evaluate your responses. As with a traditional in-person interview, you may not receive feedback from a medical school about your interview performance.

Sample AAMC VITA Questions

  • What motivated you to choose a career in medicine?
  • Please describe a time when you disagreed with a coworker or classmate. How did you resolve the situation?
  • If you were in a situation where you did not agree with how an attending was talking to a patient, what would you do?

We have many more sample VITA questions coming up. Check back for regular updates!

What the VITA Exam Means for Pre-Meds

Overall, this is a much-needed step for medical schools to take, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditional interviews involved a high cost to students, requiring them to fly to different parts of the country (and occur large expenses). It is possible that schools will take this instead of the traditional interview, or in conjunction with Zoom interviews for this application cycle. Some schools may still require in-person interviews, but that seems less likely given social distancing, the ongoing number of infections and restrictions on travel. Regardless, students should prepare for the AAMC VITA interview like they are preparing for an actual medical school interview and consider utilizing the MedSchoolCoach Virtual Interview Simulation, which will be available shortly.

VITA Exam Prep by MedSchoolCoach

What is the CASPer Exam – And Which Medical Schools Require It?

The CASPer examination is becoming a tool that medical school’s utilize to evaluate applicants in lieu of or in addition to the traditional medical school interview. So what is the CASPer examination and how can a prospective medical student prepare for it?

What is the CASPer Exam?

CASPer (Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an online, web-based computer test that takes about 90 minutes. It was started to be utilized in Canada but now has been also utilized in US based medical school admissions, specifically at New York Medical College (NYMC) and Rutgers (NJMS). More schools will utilize it soon. CASper helps schools screen applicants as part of the admissions process, in addition to of course the GPA/MCAT/LOR and everything else that goes into a great medical school application.

What is the structure of the CASPer test?

CASPer has 12 stations. Each section follows a similar format consisting first of a short video or other directed text, followed by 2-3 questions relating to the material.  Some sections are prompted by situational challenges displayed in short video clips; others are prompted by self-reflective questions. The applicant has 5 minutes to answer all questions in a given section.

What kinds of questions are on the CASPer test?

CASPer tends to test medical and other scenarios focused on ethics and behavior. All the questions are not medically related, in fact most are simply behavioral questions. Here is a word based scenario:

Consider this statement: From time to time, we deal with conflict in some form.

Questions to the Applicant:

1. Describe a time when you had to deal with conflict and how you coped with it.

2. How might you handle a similar situation differently should it arise again?

3. What would be your strategy if you were faced with a conflict that was extremely difficult to resolve?

What material should I utilize to study for CASPer?:

CASPer is not a test you necessarily need to “study” for, like the MCAT. In fact, it’s actually designed to not be studied for! It’s more testing your ability to think, handle situations, etc. However, we do recommend you go through a few scenarios or sample cases to get an idea and for that, the MedSchoolCoach CASPer Prep program is perfect.  It will take you through every aspect of the exam you need to understand and includes coaching by a physician.

Another great website with medical ethical scenarios and situations is University of Washington’s Bioethics page ( If you feel comfortable thinking about and going through scenarios such as those laid out, you will be good to go for CASPer! There are a few other things that people recommend to study which we’ve included below (courtesy of Je Suis Banane on SDN).

1) Read “Doing Right” by Philip C. Hébert – Excellent crash course in medical ethics. This book contains a lot of different scenarios that if you have time to read will give you great insight. 2) Look up the background/FAQs of CASPer – Get a very good understanding of the format of the test, use CASPer’s sample test to your advantage ( as well as the MedSchoolCoach CASPer Prep Program (, learn the history and acknowledge that the test is designed so that it is difficult to improve your score by studying. 3) Find sample questions from different websites and use those to your advantage. There’s tons of stuff on YouTube if you do a quick search for ‘CASPer sample questions’, ‘medical ethics questions’, or ‘medical interview questions’. 4) Practice taking notes for videos/sample questions to accurately get an idea of the scenario. On test day, you can’t go back and re-watch the video. It’s a 1-time deal. Make it count!

Which medical schools utilize CASPer?:

Medical schools currently using CASPer along with the distribution deadline:

Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine April 26, 2021
Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine April 26, 2021
Baylor College of Medicine  November 30, 2020
Boston University October 26, 2020
California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine March 3, 2021
Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine November 11, 2020
Central Michigan University, College of Medicine March 3, 2021
Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine March 3, 2021
Drexel University College of Medicine December 23, 2020
East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine December 23, 2020
Florida Atlantic University Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine January 25, 2021
Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell November 20, 2020
Howard University College of Medicine April 26, 2021
Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine April 26, 2021
Indiana University School of Medicine December 23, 2020
Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine November 11, 2020
Augusta University, Medical College of Georgia  October 7, 2020
Medical College of Wisconsin December 23, 2020
Meharry Medical College January 25, 2021
Mercer University School of Medicine December 23, 2020
Michigan State University  January 25, 2021
New York Medical College, School of Medicine January 25, 2021
Northeast Ohio Medical University, College of Medicine December 23, 2020
Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine April 26, 2021
Oregon Health & Science University  December 23, 2020
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine April 26, 2021
Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine January 25, 2021
Rosalind Franklin University, Chicago Medical School April 26, 2021
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School December 23, 2020
State University of New York Upstate Medical University November 30, 2020
Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University December 23, 2020
Temple University School of Medicine- Lewis Katz April 26, 2021
Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine October 7, 2020
Texas Tech University EI Paso November 30, 2020
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine November 30, 2020
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, NY March 3, 2021
Tulane University School of Medicine November 30, 2020
University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine November 30, 2020
University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine December 14, 2020
University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine March 3, 2021
University of Michigan March 3, 2021
University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine  October 7, 2020
University of Rochester November 11, 2020
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Long School of Medicine January 25, 2021
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, School of Medicine October 26, 2020
University of Texas Southwestern  January 25, 2021
University of Vermont, Larner College of Medicine December 23, 2020
University of Washington, School of Medicine November 11, 2020
Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Medicine October 7, 2020
Wake Forest School of Medicine  November 30, 2020
West Virginia University School of Medicine April 26, 2021
Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific April 26, 2021
William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine April 5, 2021

The Interview Day – How to Maximize the Day and Optimize Your Chances

man getting an interview

Author: Sean Childs MD

Finally, after all of the required forms, applications and costs, you have been awarded with the long desired “interview.” Now is a time to celebrate, but also to begin preparing for what is the most crucial, high stakes portion of the entire application process.

Whether it is your first interview or you last, they all will feel the same…one lone day to show faculty, physicians and even students that you are a MUST for their acceptance lists.

Additionally, many will be told that this is not only a day for medical schools to interview applicants, but also a day for applicants to interview the medical school. As cliché as this may sound, it is 100% true and very important to remember. So, whether you are asking yourself “What can I possibly do to make this school want me out of the other 700 applicants” or “How will I know if this medical school is for me?,” … read on and hopefully your questions will be answered.

Always Have You Game Face On Your Interview Day

From the minute you hit “submit” on your application to the day you begin your first day as a medical student, you must treat all communication with medical school staff/students/admissions as a official interview. At any stage in the process, treating anyone with disrespect or making candid/inappropriate comments can be the single strike that will land you with a rejection letter. Everyone involved in the admissions process knows that there is a very limited window available to get to know potential applicants. With this in mind, any slip up, distasteful comment or interaction may be enough of a flag on an applicant to prevent them from obtaining the much-desired acceptance letter. In this day and age, with the extreme abundance of qualified medical school applicants, everyone must remember that in addition to showing medical schools why they should be chosen for acceptance, it is equally important to NOT give them any reasons for rejection. Thus, from the time you respond to invitation emails to the day you get your acceptance letter, treat every interaction with medical school, regardless of the individual, as an official interview. Be kind, be courteous, and stay true to who you are at all time, for you never know who can be your ally or your enemy.

Interviewing the School..

Whether you believe it or not, the common teaching that an interview is a two way street is fully correct and important to remember. While applicants are often only focused on obtaining acceptances at as many institutions as possible, they can often overlook the subtleties that make each institution uniquely different…and which make them ideal for different applicants. One of the most important concepts that can drawn from the interview process itself is that medical schools, while responsible for teaching the same content, are all rather different in their delivery and style. In addition, each medical school attracts and is comprised of a unique type of student body. Thus, any time spent at an institution during the interview process should be viewed as a precious opportunity to gauge your fit among the community behind each medical school.

During the interview day, applicants have free range to observe, talk with, interact with and question any student or faculty they meet.

They must realize the importance of these interactions as they can first hand “feel out” their fit within the community they may end up calling home for 4 or more crucial years of their life. Common questions may include what they do for fun, their favorite/least favorite aspects of the school, what they were looking for in a medical school and whether or not they would repeat their decision if they had the chance to do it all over again.

From Interviewer to Interviewee

Whether it is your first or your last, whether it is at a “reach” school or safety net interviews can be a source of anxiety and fear…but they don’t always have to be. Interviewers are not out to get applicants, as often believed to be. They have what can be thought of as 2 main jobs: 1.) To get to know you as a person, something that a piece of paper or electronic file cannot fully do, 2.) To determine whether you would be a good fit and addition to their medical school and community. With those two things in mind, the interview can be transformed into a more relaxing, even enjoyable process. Applicants should try to relax and be themselves, in a professional setting, to reveal to interviewers why they belong at that institution. Taking time to peruse a medical school’s website prior to the interview can assist in finding the basic tenets upon which the schools educational foundation is based upon. Taking time to ponder what personal characteristics one possess to make them an ideal applicant can help to guide the interview and make them seem like a perfect fit. Be sure to answer all questions truthfully and to always ask yourself “why do I belong here” and “what is it about my application that makes me uniquely posed to succeed at this institution.”

Exclusive Interview with Master Advisor, Dr. Katzen on Interview Do’s and Dont’s

What to do and don't do on a medical school interview

During our recent MedSchoolCoach webinar, “Establishing Your Brand: How to be Unique When Applying to Medical School”, Dr. Mehta, CEO of MedSchoolCoach, spoke with Dr. Katzen, MedSchoolCoach Master Advisor, about his take on major do’s and don’t’s for students on the medical school interview day. Read more about these

 necessary tips from a previous admissions committee member below!

Dr. Mehta:  Are there any do’s or don’t’s for the interview day that you think are absolutely necessary for an applicant to know?

Dr. Katzen:  Sure. Let me go through a couple of basics. I always say that, first of all, you’ve been given the opportunity to interview and you need to look at the interview as a formal opportunity. I think it’s important to realize that everybody who conducts an interview whether they’d be a staff or private physician, resident intern or medical student is doing it voluntarily and I emphasize that because I think at the beginning and the end of the interview, you should thank whomever it is for taking the time to interview you.

The other thing I’d like to point out is that I think at the end of the interview, as the interviewer, I should not remember what you wore; in other words, I think you should dress professionally and appropriately. A couple of other points, I think when you introduce yourself and come in to the interview, you should introduce yourself with your first and last name. If you introduce yourself and say, “Hi, I’m Robby,” you’re already demeaning yourself a little bit and putting yourself in an unnecessary inferior position.

Throughout the interview, you don’t want to brag but you want to put, if you will, your best foot forward. This is your day to shine. And when you get questions such as “Tell me about your biggest fault,” I think you should really think about that in advance. And that whatever fault you might want to bring up because we all have faults, at the end of that, we should almost audibly hear a comment in a sentence where you tell me how you’ve grown or how you’ve changed and that is no longer a fault.

And most importantly, you should not sound rehearsed. It’s more important that you are relaxed and I think you can be most relaxed if we anticipate or help you anticipate some of the questions and you just think more in terms of themes of what you’re going to talk about rather than the specific words or specific sentences. If you’re talking about yourself or your own accomplishments or places you’ve been or things you’ve done, I think just remembering a couple of key words is much more efficient and safer as opposed to trying to actually memorize a one-page or more speech.

Dr. Mehta:  Great. Thank you.

Dr. Katzen:  Sure.

6 Essential Tips to Prepare for a Successful Medical School Interview

girl being interviewed by two woman

By Amanda Wilks

You have finally received the letter that you have been waiting for and opened it. Fortunately, it started with “Congratulations!” and now you have some worries about not being able to ace an interview at the school of your dreams.

It’s high time you stopped worrying about that, because we have prepared a list of 6 important tips to help you ‘wow’ the interviewers at your future medical school.

1. Stay Up-To-Date

In the world of medicine, research is everything and many discoveries can be made within a short period of time.

As a good prospective medical student, you should always be up-to-date with all the current research and discoveries that pertain to the world of medicine. This can be achieved through reading medical journals and blogs or even talking to researchers and resident doctors you may meet while working or volunteering.

This is a good way to impress your interviewer as he/she will take note of your ability to form personal opinions on relatively new pieces of information. As KW2 says, you and the interviewer should be “bobbing to the same beat;” that is, understanding each other because of sharing current information.

2. Research on Interview Feedback

What better way to get prepared for your medical school interview than to ask those who have already been there about it? You can do this by talking to other medical students or doctors about how their interviews went so that you get a feel of what to expect when your day finally comes.

Websites such as The Student Doctor Network contain a lot of information from seasoned experts. There are even online webinars on acing your medical school interview from which you can gather valuable advice and information, shared by highly-esteemed experts in the field. This information will help you a lot while preparing and will also give you a good confidence boost.

3. Log onto the School’s Website

This is another great way to impress the interviewer, since the possession of knowledge about your prospective future school shows that you are actually interested in attending the institution. Most of the information about a school can be easily found by visiting their website. This is a simple way of gaining access to interesting details, such as information about their curriculum, teaching methods, student body and many more important bits.

You can also find this out by actually touring the school and talking to students who study there. At the end of the day, you should also strive to know about the school’s resident placements, mission, facilities, and hospitals in which you will be doing clinical rotations.

You should also find out what key aspects form the school’s most prized assets or reputation. This will go a long way in showing the interviewer why the school is the perfect fit for you.

4. Go Through Your Application

As with all interviews, your interviewer will go through the documents that you presented during your application and ask you questions based on the information that you made available. This can become a huge pitfall if you don’t review your application, which in most cases, was submitted months ago. The reason is that your memory of the details you have presented may become a little hazy.

Go through your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application, especially the sections on course work, work, and activities, your personal essay, and test scores as they will be featured during the interview.

Another important tip is, if you have ever conducted any research, be sure to remember the specifics about it, as well as how far the project has gone up to date.

5. Update Your Interviewer

Now that you have polished up on what you wrote on your application, you should also make sure to inform the interviewer on all that you have achieved in the time between the submission of your application and the interview.

Have you been volunteering somewhere? Have you conducted or helped in conducting research? What about where you live? Will the distance interfere with your studies? Have you made any publications?

All these and more questions will help you in remembering all the new information about yourself, which will help the interviewer to better assess you.

6. Prepare for and Anticipate Questions

Anticipating the questions that the interviewer may ask you will give you plenty of time to research on them and formulate your own personal opinions. This will also give you a boost in confidence, as you will feel better prepared.

A common pitfall is the question concerning end-of-life matters. Your interviewer is most likely going to ask you to air your views on matters such as euthanasia and other tough ethical issues such as abortion and stem cell research.

Such questions should be handled with seriousness and dignity, as the interviewer will want to know where you stand when it comes to such tricky and emotional matters. After asking you questions, he/she will give you an opportunity to air your queries too. Do not fall into the abyss of saying that you have none, because you will give the impression of being a shallow person, who has no interest in this domain of study.

Instead, you should prepare a series of thoughtful questions that cannot be answered by simple online means such as the FAQ section of the institution’s website. These meaningful questions will show that you truly have an interest in studying medicine at their school, as you have sought further clarifications regarding it.


These tips will prepare you for a successful medical school interview. Remember that your application is to show your credentials, but the interview is what will determine what kind of person you are, so always strive to show interviewers the best version of you.


Author Bio: Amanda Wilks is a guest blogger and a contributing author. As a motivational writer focused on education and social activism, Amanda loves sharing her work, hoping that it will inspire others to shape a successful career. Visit Amanda’s Twitter for more of her writings.  

After the BS/MD Interview: What to do Next

I want to talk about something that most BS/MD students don’t usually consider until it’s too late. It’s good to start thinking about some of these things as early as when you come home from your interview travel. Who you contact and what you do after you interview is instrumental to both your selection into the program as well as to your ultimate college decision, so don’t take for granted the post-interview steps.

Email program faculty

By emailing the program faculty members (even those whom you may not have had a chance to talk to directly) and expressing your gratitude for their efforts shows that you’re really serious about this program. Once you’ve reached the interview stage of the BS/MD process, your accomplishments don’t really matter anymore. It’s your enthusiasm and excitement for the school and program that are really going to set you apart from others, and one of the best ways to express those sentiments is through an email. It should be apparent from both the length and the content of the email that you took the time to think it through and really make sure you delivered a personal message. By simply sending a “thank you for having me” email, you don’t really add any value to your application. Make sure to also send this email within 1-2 days of the interview to ensure that this act of appreciation is taken into consideration when the selection committee is deciding which applicants to select for the program. The decision is generally made within a few weeks of the interview day/weekend (because program faculty want to make final conclusions while the interview process is still fresh in their mind) so you don’t want to be too delayed in sending the email.

The point is, by taking the time to thank people who have worked tirelessly for the past few months to set up this interview process, you’ll show them that not only are you a smart and diligent student, but so too a kind and grateful person, and that’s exactly the kind of qualities these programs are seeking.

Reach out to upperclassmen

In addition to showing appreciation towards the program faculty, you also want to make sure to reach out to any current students of the program whom you may have had a chance to talk to during the interview process. Some programs take into consideration student input while others may not, but either way, the program will not tell you what they do. So to be safe, it’s always safe to extend your gratitude to any upperclassmen to make sure you’re on their good side as well.

With upperclassmen, it’s not always a requirement for you to send a lengthy and formal email as it is with program faculty. Sometimes simply showing your appreciation via a Facebook message or text is good enough. You should note, however, that a thoughtfully written out email will make a stronger impression. So I would recommend evaluating how impactful the upperclassmen whom you are planning on sending the note to was throughout your interview, and then making an appropriate decision based off of that. For example, if you stayed overnight with a student host, then I would suggest you send that person an email. If, however, the student was simply someone you had one or two brief and casual conversations with during your visit, then a Facebook message will suffice. Be thoughtful and be appreciative; beyond that, there’s not much to it!

Pursue scholarship options

Once March 31st rolls around and you know of all the programs and regular universities you were accepted to, make sure to not let up just yet! Now is the time to take advantage of all the hard work you’ve put in over the last year and try to get as much scholarship money as possible.

As a general rule, it’s not uncommon for BS/MD programs to offer you slightly less scholarship money relative to the other schools. This is simply because these BS/MD programs are offering something that is arguably more valuable than a couple thousand dollars: rare opportunity for an easier route to medical school. Thus, the best leverage to use against these programs is money that other programs are offering you. Because in that case, both sides are offering simpler routes to medical school, so the only other differentiation is money. It is possible to use a regular undergraduate school’s scholarship money as leverage, but it will likely only be effective if that university is quite prestigious. If not, still give it a shot, but don’t be too surprised if the BS/MD program doesn’t match that amount exactly.

Evaluate all options

Now that you’ve interviewed at all the BS/MD programs and have hopefully toured your top undergraduate university options, take some time to figure out which of these schools is best for you. For some people, choosing a BS/MD program might seem like the obvious simply because its providing an easier route into medical school, but don’t be too quick and jump the gun on that decision.
Some BS/MD programs are essentially a “trap.” They use the classic carrot and stick method to entice students and get them to come to their university (to improve their rankings and statistics) by dangling in front of them that conditional acceptance to medical school. At first, there’s seems to be nothing wrong with that. But once you take a closer look at some of the requirements that must be fulfilled in order to gain that acceptance (such as a high MCAT score, a high GPA, or a strict requirement of all science-related activities), you’ll come to realize that there aren’t all that many perks to actually joining such a BS/MD program. If you were to be a traditional pre-med student, you would likely do all the same things but instead at an undergraduate university that is either more prestigious, offering you more scholarship money, or is generally a better fit for your personality. So in this situation, attending that BS/MD program makes really no sense at all.

The best way to decide whether to choose a BS/MD program over a regular undergraduate university (or to decide which specific BS/MD program to choose if you have multiple offers) is by creating a list of your specific educational needs. So, for example, my list consisted of: scholarship money, people, school size, medical school prestige, undergraduate school prestige, MCAT/GPA requirements, and types of classes offered. If a BS/MD program is strongly lacking in all aspects of your list while another undergraduate university is soaring in all aspects except for the medical school guarantee, then I’d recommend choosing the undergraduate school. If one BS/MD program is more prestigious but is offering you very little money as opposed to another BS/MD program that is slightly less prestigious that is offering you a large sum of money, then perhaps consider choosing the program offering more money. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference; the point is to not make a decision solely based on one factor (generally being medical school guarantee/prestige) but rather on a multitude of different factors. Of course, you will have to compromise in some places to benefit in others, but be careful not to compromise too much in any one area just for a conditional acceptance.

At the end of the day, if you’ve been accepted into any BS/MD program, then you likely have the work ethic and intelligence necessary to become a doctor through the traditional route as well. So make a well thought out decision that will really maximize your chances at future happiness and success.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Preparing for the BS/MD Interview


In the previous article, we discussed tips on how to approach undergraduate BS/MD interviews. Today, we’re going to talk about the medical school interview and how you can successfully rock that face to face meeting.

Know your research inside-out

In medical school interviews, you are going to be talking to highly qualified professionals who themselves have extensive training in research. So even if they haven’t done research in the exact field as your, they likely have enough experience to understand the technical details of what you did. And if they don’t, then they’ll know exactly which questions to ask, which means you need to be ready to answer any and every thing. Hopefully you already know the details of your own research, but if not, then do the reading necessary to brush up on anything you’re unfamiliar with. I then recommend making a small presentation to your mentor and asking them to be really critical of you; encourage them to ask tough questions so that you get some practice answering them before your interview. I personally have never had an interviewer grill me with tough research questions, but I do have friends who’ve faced that situation. In fact, one of my friends was faced with a panel of student researchers who were studying the same topic as she was, so they asked her a number of complicated and in depth questions. Though that may have just been her luck, it is always best to be prepared for the most difficult of circumstances. So my advice is to know your research project inside out and practice as if you were about to face a panel of PhD’s!

Be ready for curve ball questions

Your medical school interview is more likely to throw you curveball questions as opposed to your undergraduate interview, simply because the medical school is looking specifically to see how you respond to pressure situations. Remember that if you get a curveball question, its okay to answer it incorrectly (some questions may not even have a “correct” answer). All you have to do is maintain your calm and try to answer the question in the most logical way possible. Sometimes your interviewer will drop hints or try to steer you towards the right answer, and if that’s the case, then follow their cues. But again, you may or may not be able to end up with the right answer. Don’t panic, and you’ll be just fine!

Show knowledge of current medical news

If you can confidently say at 18-years old that you know which field of study you want to pursue as a career, hopefully you’ve done enough research to be able to back that statement up. And part of doing research is knowing current affairs related to that field. So before an interview, always be prepared to answer questions such as “What do you think is medicine’s biggest struggle right now” or “What do you think future doctors need to focus on/be aware of.” These types of questions have more than one right answer. What the true purpose of these questions is to see how up to date you are with the news and current events in medicine. This is not an unexpected question, so you should be ready to answer it in a confident and informed manner.
There may be interviews in which this question is not asked, but in that case, you have the opportunity to seem more informed than the average applicant by mentioning a current issue in the answers to one of the other questions. And what’s better? Perhaps mention some work that the medical school you are interviewing for is doing in reaction to those current affairs. Using either of these approaches will show the interviewer that you are a well-informed student who’s done their research and has the proactive attitude necessary for doctors.
Now that you know the difference between the two interviews, hopefully the purposes of the separate interviews are a bit clearer now. Most students enter these interviews without knowing exactly what to expect or how to act, so knowing this information will help you be one of the more prepared applicants. In the next post, I’ll discuss exactly what to do after the interview is done, (which is another topic that most students don’t know much about) so make sure to check it out for some more valuable information!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Lowdown on the BS/MD Undergraduate Interview

The interview process for BS/MD programs consists of two main interviews: the undergraduate interview and the medical school interview. Both have different formats and unique aims, so it’s smart to prepare for both on an individual basis. Today, I’ve explained the best way to approach the undergraduate interview and what to expect from one.

Though this interview is likely going to be more laid-back than your medical school interview, don’t take it lightly though. Schools that require two interview rounds will probably make a large cut after this interview (such as the Baylor^2 program, which first interviews ~100 students at the undergraduate school and only ~15 students for the second interview at the medical school), so it’s critical for you to make a strong impression. To prepare for this interview, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind:

Be ready to start with the question “Tell me about yourself”

In this interview, the interviewer is genuinely trying to get to know more about you and why you would be a good match for the undergraduate school. The conversation is going to head in the direction that you gear it towards, so be strategic in how you answer this question. For example, one of the qualities that I wanted to emphasize about myself was my dual interest in both science and art and how my experience in both has influenced my decision to go into medicine. Thus, in my response to “Tell me about yourself”, I prepared a short intro about me that mentioned my involvement in both scientific and artistic endeavors and how I was looking to grow those throughout my undergraduate years. If you, like me, have a specific quality about you that you want to believe is of great importance to your application, then it is probably important to mention it from the very start with this question. Don’t feel obligated to mention the specific details of your interest in medicine. It will probably come up anyways (since that is what you’re looking to demonstrate to the application committee), but a brief mention of why or how your interest was sparked is plenty. There will be ample time with follow up questions to go more in depth on your medical experience and aspirations, so there is no need to cover all that simply with the first question. Keep your response to this question slightly casual, yet still informative.

Talk about why you’re interested in the undergraduate school

Unfortunately, the reality with these programs is that a lot of students apply to certain undergraduate schools simply to gain acceptance to medical school, not because they are genuinely interested in attending the undergraduate school and see the medical school as an added bonus. And while there is some logic behind this reasoning, faculty of the undergraduate school don’t see it that way. They want students who are just as committed and excited about joining the undergraduate school as they are about gaining conditional acceptance to the medical school. So in your interview, it is important to emphasize aspects of the undergraduate school that you find most appealing and are most interested in getting involved with. You can offer to share your medical interests, but it’s quite possible that this topic isn’t even touched upon during the entirety of the interview. I’ve both heard of and have myself attended undergraduate interviews in which the interviewer has no relationship at all whatsoever to any science or medicine-related field. Undergraduate interviewers can be history teachers, counselors, or pretty much anyone from the school’s faculty. The reason for having such types of interviewers is because these programs are trying to seek out your interests outside of medicine. You can’t really talk about the technicalities of your lab research with, say, a literature teacher, and thus you’re forced to talk about what draws you to the undergraduate school as opposed to your interest in medicine. The undergraduate interview, in many ways, it a test of your authenticity, so if you’re asked to talk about something completely unrelated to medicine or about specifics of the undergraduate school as opposed to the medical school, don’t be caught off guard!

Be flexible in your conversation and ask lots of questions

The best way to approach an undergraduate interview is with an open mind and a flexible attitude. Don’t feel obligated to always hit on certain points if it doesn’t seem as if they fit the flow of the conversation. With this interview, the selection committee is trying to get to know more about your personality, so approach it as a conversation. There will always be the possibility that you get a strict interviewer and have a more formal interview, but don’t be too surprised if that’s not the case (since most people expect all their interviews to be extremely formal and medicine-oriented). In one of my undergraduate interviews, I started up talking to my interviewer about my interest in food and baking and we ended up going on a slight tangent about all the local restaurants in the area. If this happens, don’t push away from it! It’ll show the interviewer a more human side.

So much of what people say in these interviews can come off as seeming staged and fake, so showing off your human side is great because it makes you seem more personable and authentic. The best way to do so is by finding common ground between you and your interviewer and continuing a conversation based on that. And to do that, you must make sure to ask them a lot of questions! Like I said earlier, approach this interview as a conversation. And what makes up a good conversation? A strong balance of back and forth. Sure, they’re probably going to be doing more of the asking and you more of the telling, but don’t be afraid every now and then to interject and ask your own questions about whatever topic you may be discussing. That is actually how my interviewer and I ended up talking about food at such great length. His tone and interest in my baking experience indicated to me that he too was probably interested in food, so I decided to further explore that haunch by asking him questions about any connection he had to cooking and baking. Not surprisingly, he admitted to be a self-proclaimed foodie! The interview then naturally turned into a conversation about some great local eateries and ended up lasting a lot longer than the allotted time.

The purpose of undergraduate interviews is to show that you are capable of building human connections and that there’s more to you than a list of resume activities, so do whatever it takes to show that!

Talk in “lay terms” about research and other technical experiences

If the topic of your research is brought up during your undergraduate interview, then start off describing it in lay terms. Your interviewer may or may not have any prior experience in the field of your research, so it could be difficult for them to keep up with any technical details that you mention. If they show further interest after you’ve given your brief synopsis, then you can consider that the “go ahead” signal and expand your simple explanation to include technical details. If they don’t show any interest, though, then don’t risk confusing them by adding in any technical details. In general, it’s always smart to start simple and adjust your answer based on your interviewer’s reaction. If they ask follow up questions, then feel free to go more in depth on your experiences. But if not, then a simple explanation should suffice.

Sometimes, your lab research may not be discussed at all simply because the interviewer didn’t find time to talk about it or because they didn’t find the need to address it. If that’s the situation, don’t panic! Again, feel out the conversation and follow it’s natural flow. Before you leave at the end, you can offer them your research report and just quickly say “We didn’t get to talk in depth about my research but here’s a report I wrote on it in case you’d like to further read about what I did.” Saying something along those lines allows you to mention your research without having to force it into the conversation, which is exactly what you want.

In our next article in this installment, we’ll cover what you need to know for medical school interviews.

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Your General BS/MD Interview Cheatsheet

There’s a lot to do to prepare for BS/MD interviews. Depending on the school, you may have either one or two rounds of interviews (except for Brown University’s PLME, which has no interview at all). If you have two separate rounds of interviews, then the first round is usually with the undergraduate school and the second round is with the medical school. If, on the other hand, you only have 1 interview, then you will likely interview with both the undergraduate school and the medical school on the same day. There’s some general advice that can apply to both interviews, but there is also specific advice on what to do during each individual interview. For now, I’ve focused just on the general advice so make sure to follow along and hopefully you will find it eye-opening!

General Advice

Always act professional

One of the biggest misconceptions about interviews is that you are only being “assessed” during your specific interview slot. In reality, though, you are constantly be judged and evaluated. This includes during the breaks you have in between interviews and during any social situations (such as dinners or after-interview parties). Basically, the moment you step foot on the university campus, you must always be prepared to put your best self forward for the entire duration of your stay. Thus, try to always maintain a relatively professional demeanor because someone is always going to be watching and taking note of how you act in different situations, and the selection committee will make use of those notes when discussing applicant qualifications.

Talk and be cordial to current students in the program as well as with other applicants

One of the most important aspects of being a doctor is the ability to communicate and relate to other people, even if they are complete strangers (and in this case, your competition!). But for the means of the interview, you have to forget that you’re competing against all these students around you. Instead, try to find common ground with them and talk about other interests and hobbies. As stated above, you are constantly being judged throughout the interview day, and your ability to be social is of great importance. Try to avoid going off into one corner and doing your own thing or shutting yourself off to other people, because that will all negatively affect your chances of being selected into the program.

Do all the “optional” things

Sometimes during your BS/MD interview day/weekend, there are going to be optional activities offered to you. But if they’re there and listed in your itinerary, you should never assume them to be “optional”. In reality, these optional activities are there to test your enthusiasm and interest in the school. For example, one of the universities that I interviewed at had an optional school tour because it was freezing outside and didn’t want to force anyone to walk out in unbearable cold. But think about it; if someone decides to opt out of a school tour simply because the weather is a bit harsh, what does that say about that student? You could potentially be spending the next 4-8 years there with those exact same weather conditions, so should the weather really deter you? Of course not! The weather may not be ideal, but it’s a hurdle you should choose to face if you want to really prove your interest in the university and their program. Similarly, if you are offered any other optional activities (such as Q&A sessions, educational seminars, lecture visits, or overnight stays), always partake in them. It’ll show your genuine interest in the school.

Ask the right questions

When you get to campus and meet with the current students of the program, it’ll be tempting to unload a number of questions about them in regards to the specifics of the interview. But speaking from my experience as a current BS/MD student, I can tell you that that is extremely unappealing. There is no problem in asking a few interview related questions that you are genuinely interested in knowing the answer to, but in general, avoid asking about topics such as acceptance rates. Instead, ask about our majors or our interests and involvements on campus. These questions help show us that you’re a real student who’s actually interested in getting to know more about the school and the people there as opposed to simply getting into the program. It’s natural to worry about acceptance rates and curve ball questions, but those are worries that you should address before you get to the interview day rather than addressing them on the interview day itself.

Have a “cheat sheet”

Before you leave home to travel to campus for your interviews, it’s important for you to write down a little cheat sheet that you can easily carry with you and access during your stay. On this cheat sheet, you can include your main talking points, questions you want to ask, or even little words of encouragement for yourself. During the interview process, you’ll probably be overwhelmed with feelings of both excitement and nervousness, so it’ll be easy to forget to mention certain points you had in mind. If, however, you’ve got a piece of paper with all those points written down, then all you have to do is take a quick glance at it and you’ll instantly remember what thoughts and questions you had. This is especially helpful to do right before your interview slot. I recommend getting to the interview room about 10 minutes early and using that time to refresh your mind and go over your cheat sheet once more. That way, you’ll minimize the chances of forgetting important notes you wanted to mention, and with that, you’ll likely feel more comfortable and confident during the interview itself.

Smile and relax!

The interview process is extremely nerve wracking and stressful, but the best thing you can do is to put yourself at ease and forget the stakes. Remember that as a doctor, you’ll be dealing with pressure situations on a daily basis. What’s important is that you can keep your composure and react appropriately to the situation. Similarly, with these interviews, it’s important for you to keep your calm and maintain a relaxed demeanor. The outcome of the interview is out of your control, so the only thing you can do is present your best self and hope that it’s enough to get selected. Even if something goes wrong or you think an interview didn’t go as well as you had hoped for, don’t let it ruin the rest of the day/weekend. You can’t always interpret what others think of you, so instead of stressing over that, focus on the positives and enjoy the process. A relaxed composure is a sign of confidence and, if anything, it’ll help improve your chances of getting selected!

Some of these tips may have given you a new perspective while others told you nothing you didn’t already know; regardless, they’re all good reminders to keep in mind during your interview. In the next blog post, I’ll go more in depth on what specific tactics to apply during the individual undergraduate interview and medical school interview, so stay tuned!

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Preparing for a BS/MD Interview: What to Do Beforehand

If you make it through to the interview process of BS/MD programs, then congratulations! You’ve successfully made it past the most competitive portion of the process, so it’s definitely something to be proud of. For all programs, the number of students competing for BS/MD slots in the interview stage is considerably less than that during the general application stage, so unfortunately, the competition is likely going to get more fierce. I can speak from personal experience that students who I met during the interview process of BS/MD programs are some of the most accomplished and impressive students I have ever met! It can be inspiring and motivating to be around them, but their presence can also just as easily feel threatening and discouraging. It’s all about how you choose to interpret the situation, so try your best to keep a positive mindset and avoid negative feelings. After all, you too got an interview invite, so you are just as competitive of an applicant as them. In fact, that is perhaps single-handedly the most important point of advice to keep in mind during the interview process.

At the interview stage, everyone is on an even playing field. Your accomplishments and achievements on paper have no impact on your acceptance; your selection into this program is entirely dependent on how you interview.

So even if that kid next to you seems like he’s got a resume that’s twice as long as yours don’t let that psyche you out. Everything boils down to how you prepare for the interview and how you present yourself on to the faculty and students of the program.
Since this stage of the BS/MD application process is of such great importance, I’ve separated this blog post series into three different parts: Before, During, & After the Interview. Each section consists of vital advice that I believe was instrumental in my success, so I hope sharing it with you all will help bring similar successes!

Before the interview

Prepare a list of questions and practice your answers

The best and most effect strategy for success with BS/MD interviews requires planning out a list of question, preparing your answers, and then reciting those answers over and over and over again. Some of the questions you get are going to be very routine, like “Why do you want to be a doctor” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses.” And because these questions are so predictable, how you answer them is going to be telling of how prepared you are for the interview and how seriously you take this process. For other questions that perhaps catch you off guard, practicing is going to help you better construct and articulate your thoughts under pressure situations. Either way, the more you practice answers to potential interview questions, the better prepared you’ll be overall for your interviews.

Below, I’ve written a list of questions that I had answers to for all my interviews. I had put them on a Google doc and referenced them the night before each interview, so make sure to write down your answers in an easily accessible place.

  • Tell me about yourself:
  • Why Medicine?
  • When were you a leader?
  • Why BS/MD?
  • Characteristics you look for in a person?
  • What 3 words describe you best and why?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What are your weakness?
  • Talk about a time that you failed and what you learned from it?
  • What’s the last book that you read?
  • What makes a good doctor?
  • What is the most pressing problem in medicine today?
  • What do you like least about medicine?
  • Who/what has influenced your life the most and why?
  • What makes you special? Why should we choose you?

Take undergraduate alumni interviews beforehand

A lot of the general, non-medicine related questions that are asked during your BS/MD interview are likely going to be similar to those that are taken during the alumni interviews. The alumni interviews will be relatively more casual than your medical school interviews, but they will help you become more comfortable discussing topics outside of medicine. Thus, schedule your alumni interviews earlier (preferably in first semester) so that you can get as much practice beforehand as possible.

Presentation is key

As stated above, once you get to the interview stage of the BS/MD process, everything is dependent on how you present yourselves to the application committee. You could have all the experience in the world, but if you can’t talk about it and express its value to your interviewer, it’ll mean nothing.

From an interview perspective, presentation entails everything from the way you dress to the way you talk to the way you show off your accomplishments. Dress code is discussed below, but in this particular section, I wanted to focus on the other two aspects of presentation.

First off, the way you talk and carry yourself during an interview is important because it is indicative of confidence and personality. Naturally, we are all drawn to people who seem enthusiastic, friendly, and competent. Thus, if you greet your interviewer with a smile on your face and hold good posture during the entirety of your interview, you will likely leave a strong, positive impression on your interviewer. If, on the other hand, you maintain a slouchy posture and your responses are very dull in tone, your interviewer will come out feeling underwhelmed. The best way to practice your presentation is by both practicing in front of other people as well as by practicing to yourself in front of the mirror. It is important to see how other people view your interview skills and to get their feedback, but it is equally as important to critique yourself and analyze your own presentation skills. The advantage of practicing in front of a mirror is having the ability to see yourself as you speak and really notice the quirks of your presentation. Another effective way to notice such quirks is by video recording yourself and watching it back to analyze your faults. This is, in fact, exactly what professional athletes do when training for national and international competitions. Because you are, after all, your own biggest critic, and watching yourself (as opposed to having someone else tell you) helps give you better perspective of what needs improvement.

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The second important aspect of presentation is how you show off your accomplishments. In your essays and your resume, you had a chance to briefly note down your different experiences, but interviews give you a chance to explain them in further depth and detail. If you have additional resources that will help you better relate your experience, then bring those with you and make sure to display them in a professional manner. For example, if you’ve done research in a lab and want to talk further in detail about the project that you worked on, then perhaps bringing a copy of your research report will be of use. Your resume may provide a generic understanding of your research, but with a copy of your full research report discusses the more technical aspects of your work. Your report should be complete with all diagrams, graphs, and written details necessary. And not only that, but you should make sure to print it out on high quality paper with colored ink and display it in a report cover. Taking extra measures like this are really going to elevate the level of your presentation. The difference is always in the details, and these details are exactly what differentiate a prepared and professional applicant from an average applicant.

Keep your dress code conservative and neutral

The best piece of advice I got in regards to my interview attire was to dress to be “as undetectable as possible.” This means don’t wear any flashy colors or outfits that could draw unnecessary attention. They could potentially be distracting, and that is of course the last thing you want. So for girls, I recommend a blazer, neutral colored dress shirt, either slacks or a below-the-knee skirt, and closed-toed flats (you could wear heels, but you’re probably going to be doing a lot of walking, so plan accordingly!). For boys, I recommend a complete suit with a blazer, dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. Avoid wearing tennis shoes or crazy colored socks to minimize attention drawn to them. I also would recommend ironing your clothes before an interview because wrinkly clothes can also be distracting and signs of unprofessionalism.

Some people may mistake these interviews for business casual, but it’s important to dress for business professional because it’s indicative of your seriousness. Keep in mind, though, this applies only for the interview day itself. Some programs have 2-3 day long interview weekends where only 1 day is meant for interviews and the other 1-2 days are meant to be spent with your student host. For those other days, its perfectly fine to wear normal clothes (like jeans and a t-shirt), so make sure to pack some of those too if your program has a longer interview session!

Talk to upperclassmen who’ve interviewed for the program

As mentioned several times before in other blog posts, I have always found that talking to upperclassmen about the application process to be one of the best ways to get an upper hand in the selection process. Thus, if you know any upperclassmen who’ve interviewed for BS/MD programs, talk to them! If they’ve interviewed for the same program that you’re interviewing for, then that’s even better. But even if they interviewed for a different program than you, their advice is likely still relevant and can be helpful to you. Ask them exactly what they did to prepare for the interview and what the entire process was like. Also, ask for any connections they have to other students in other programs. Often times they will, and if they do, then ask for that person’s contact information and send them an email asking for advice. In my experience, students (even those who are strangers to you) are generally quite open and willing to share their experience, so always make an effort to reach out to them!

If you follow all the steps listed above, then there’s not much else you can really do to prepare for BS/MD interviews. Try not to obsess over the results and instead focus on keeping a relaxed and focused mind for the interview. Beyond that, there’s not much to it! In the next couple of blog posts, I’ll go over exactly what you can do on the interview day itself to strengthen your chances at being accepted into the program, so keep a look out for them!

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